This is Part One in a four-part series on how to use social media for churches.
Recently, I became Facebook friends with a church.
Okay, so that’s not exactly what happened. I was just leaving what had been a fun young adults event at a local church when my friends and I were approached by an energetic little lady (whom we’ll call “Esther”). She, we soon found out, was in charge of organizing all such events for that church. Almost immediately, Esther whipped out her phone and friended each of us on Facebook. Then she showed us the Facebook group she had created for the young adults at the church and, urging all of us to join it, she walked us to our cars. Now, via Facebook, I get regular invitations to and updates on young adults activities sponsored by the church.
I don’t know if Esther knew this is what she was doing, but I soon realized that she had provided a near-perfect model for how to use Facebook for churches to reach out to their congregation.
Draw People to Join the Church’s Facebook Page
Here’s the one point where Esther had her steps mixed up, in my opinion: Before a pastor or social media coordinator reaches out to personally connect with a new church member, they need to draw that new member into the church’s digital community by encouraging him or her to join the church’s Facebook page.
There are several ways to go about this. Probably the easiest is to promote the Facebook page and any Facebook groups via the church website. (This assumes you have a church website and it is in good shape. If you answered “no” to either of these, you have a little work to do before linking to Facebook from your website can be effective.)
To this end, make sure the link to your church’s Facebook page is clearly visible on the website and in official emails from the church administration. Facebook itself provides tools to help you integrate your Facebook page with your website.
Reach Out Personally Online
The next step to using a church Facebook page effectively is to create a more personalized online experience for those who do join.
Esther did this by friending me and my friends using her personal Facebook profile. The pastor of your church can do something similar. Whereas the church should be run off a devoted page, it’s a good idea for the pastor and other leaders within the church to create personal pages and use those to reach out to new members.
Another way to reach out personally is to invite new members to join a relevant Facebook group administered by your church. This might be a volunteer group, Bible study, or young adults social group–whatever you think will most appeal to this person and encourage them to engage with the offline church community.
Reach out Personally Offline
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning in this digital age: a church’s relationship with its members should never be purely online. Esther didn’t just get us all to sign up for her group on Facebook–she also walked us to our cars, since it was late at night and she wanted to make sure we were all safe. This added an authentically personal touch to our interaction with her, since it showed she actually cared about us as human beings, not just as names to add to a list of Facebook friends.
Pastors (and established church members) should always reach out in person to newcomers who end up visiting the church, making them feel welcome and encouraging them to stick around.
Continue to Engage
Once you attract new Facebook users to your church’s page, how do you keep them from unfriending you?
The answer to this is fairly simple: In order to continue to appeal online to the members of your church, you must continue to produce engaging content for your Facebook page. However, the ways in which you can do this are myriad. Here are just a few:
- Post church announcements–general news, weddings, other special events, etc.
- Collect and disseminate prayer requests.
- Import posts from your church blog.
- Upload scripture passages, especially those that your pastor will preach about on Sunday, and some thought-provoking questions.
- Share videos and pictures from recent church events.
Make sure your church’s Facebook page is consistently updated, post content that is easily shareable, never stop interacting with the people who visit the page, and check out these examples of great church Facebook posts.
Ready, Set, Friend!
If your church isn’t following all of the steps listed above, you may need to up your church’s Facebook game. Then, once it’s ready to go Facebook-wise and once your new Facebook friends have become new church members, you can use church management software to keep all their information organized and accessible.
Did I miss anything?
Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other ways churches can put Facebook to good use.